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It's official - NHL Oilers sold to Edmonton billionaire Daryl Katz

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers have a new owner, pending approval from the NHL.

The 34-member Edmonton Investors Group agreed Tuesday to sell 100 per cent of its shares to local pharmacy billionaire Daryl Katz in a C$200-million deal.

"This is a terrific level of support that will enable us to move forward with the process of securing NHL approval and conclude this transaction," said Katz in a news release.

League approval can take anywhere from six weeks to two months.

Katz said he also plans to create an advisory board composed of community leaders and former members of the investors group to help steer the team.

"Having an advisory board lets us capture the best of both worlds. It brings together the vision of an entrepreneurial owner with active and ongoing counsel," said Katz, who will hold a conference call Wednesday to further discuss the deal.

His offer works out to $22,000 a share for the 7,492 shares - an offer that represents a doubling of the original purchase price.

Oilers president Patrick LaForge declined comment on the sale, saying he'll wait until after Katz speaks on Wednesday.

Katz, 46, has tried for 10 months to purchase the team, making five offers starting at $145 million, sweetening the pot each time until the successful bid was proffered late last month.

The bids stressed and eventually fractured the EIG into two groups - one that wanted to sell and a small group of six owners who wanted to stay and frantically scrambled over the last two weeks to drum up the financing to match Katz's offer.

The splinter group, led by EIG board chairman Bill Butler, waved the white flag last week and agreed to sign on to the deal. Katz, who has never suggested he would move the team, has also allayed one of his opponents' key concerns by entering into talks with the city for a new deal to ensure the team stays put in the Alberta capital.

The first three bids were rejected by the majority of the investors, but the tipping point came Dec. 13, when Katz offered $20,687 per share. Cal Nichols, then chairman of the team and the leader of the group when it saved the Oilers in the mid 1990s, publicly announced he would sell and encouraged others to do the same.

Looming over the deal has been the issue of a new rink for the Oilers to replace aging Rexall Place.

The city is studying options but has said it doesn't want to use taxpayers' money for the rink, estimated to cost between C$500 million and C$1 billion.

Katz has promised to ante up $100 million for the rink, build the team a new practice facility on the University of Alberta campus, and spend to the cap on player salaries.

The Oilers, a financial mess when the EIG purchased them, are now a success story. Rexall Place is routinely sold out and player salaries - which must be paid out in U.S. dollars - are more manageable now that the Canadian dollar is close to the U.S. greenback.

Katz is a homegrown businessman who studied law at the University of Alberta before building his pharmacy empire. He has a $20-million custom-built home in the city's river valley.

The Katz Group owns the Rexall brand and other drugstore chains. In 2003, the Katz Group signed a 10-year deal for naming rights to the Edmonton rink at a cost believed to be $20 million.


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